Missouri players found a silver lining after their 62-60 loss to Georgia in the second round of the SEC men's basketball tournament on Thursday. For the first time in three years, their season isn’t over.
“There’s still things to look forward to,” said junior forward Kevin Puryear, a Blue Springs native.
Puryear is right. Missouri is all but locked into its first NCAA Tournament in five years and should hear its name called on Selection Sunday this weekend.
According to BracketMatrix.com, a website that tracks potential tournament teams and their seeds, Missouri appears on all 80 brackets with an average seed of No. 8. A win over Georgia likely wouldn’t have moved Missouri up, but the Tigers could still get a possible bump because of Michael Porter Jr.’s return.
Puryear, junior point guard Jordan Geist and freshman Jontay Porter all said that they didn’t look at mock brackets during the season.
After three straight years of 10 or fewer wins, they’re just happy to have another game to play after the conference tournament.
“I’m not really concerned with what seed we get,” graduate transfer Kassius Robertson said. “We had a chance to improve what we were projected as; we didn’t do it. It’s more of a just 'hopefully we’re still in' (situation).”
Assuming Missouri earns an eighth seed, the Tigers would play a ninth seed in the first round, with a No. 1 seed waiting for them in the second round of the Tournament.
Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin has said recently that when Missouri is hitting shots and Porter and fellow freshman Jeremiah Tilmon aren't foul trouble, the Tigers are “as good as any team in America.”
The exact opposite happened on Thursday, as Missouri shot 34 percent from the floor and both Tilmon and Puryear fouled out. Jontay Porter was the Tigers' lone bright spot, scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds in his brother’s return.
In his first game back since the season opener against Iowa State on Nov. 11, Michael Porter Jr. finished with 12 points and eight rebounds while shooting 5-of-17 from the floor. Porter Jr. said he played at 70 percent of his usual self.
Geist said the team is going into its tournament matchup “ready to fight." With Porter Jr. back, the Tigers could be a tough out if the offense is clicking.
Even Porter Jr., who was disappointed with his performance and felt guilty that Missouri lost to a team that it previously beat without him, believes the Tigers can still turn some heads next weekend.
“The season’s not over,” he said. “That’s the good part. We’ve got another game coming up soon. That’s what counts.”